Bundy rower brings home bronze from national comp
One Bundaberg rower is living proof that dedication and drive pays off after walking away from a national championship wearing a medal around her neck.
Bundaberg Rowing Club's Rebecca Markwell has been an active participant in the sport for the last six years and had always aspired to win a national medal.
Competing in four events at the Australian Rowing Championships at Tasmania's Lake Barrington last week Rebecca, 24, who is vision impaired, placed third in one of her races.
"I'm in the PR3 category which is for athletes who can use their whole body in rowing but have some sort of disability that inhibits them marginally such as severe vision, intellectual or mild physical impairments," Rebecca said.
"Being vision impaired does add an extra element - I have a guide boat that follows me down the course so I stay in my lane and I use a two-way radio with my coach who usually sits in the umpire's boat so he can tell me which direction to pull around on."
Rebecca competed in the PR3 women's 2km single scull last Thursday and mixed double scull on Friday before taking out third place in the 500m sprint on the Saturday.
With no time to rest the passionate athlete then represented the state in the PR3 women's interstate single scull the following day.
"It was pretty stiff competition - I was going up against Olympians and world champions," Rebecca said.
"(My coach) told me I was in second place so I fell back a little to try and preserve my energy and thinking I'd be able to push past the other rowers.
"It got to about 100m to go and I was just starting to come up on the third person who is a world champion so I just put the power on and told myself to go for it … I ended up half a boat's length in front of her on the line."
The 24-year-old said while she didn't initially know she had placed third, the moment she realised was indescribable.
"It didn't even hit - I just kept thinking surely I haven't beaten her … they yell out the lane numbers to go over to the podium but even then it didn't fully register until one of the umpires came over and said 'yeah that's you,'" Rebecca said.
"With 500m sprints you're going so fast that you can hear the water moving past you and it's just something else … that feeling knowing you made it was just incredible."
And while winning a medal is something to smile about, there's a special reason the sport and placement means so much to Rebecca.
"Because of my vision I'll never get to drive a car so for me the freedom that I get out on the water is the feeling that I assume people get when they first get their licence," she said.
"While I still have to get guided by somebody else it's like I'm out there by myself and you just feel the boat moving underneath you and I love that."
But the hard work doesn't stop there for the local rower who has already started training for the following national competition next year.
"I could not have come third without the support of the Bundaberg Rowing Club, Central Queensland Sports Academy and the whole coaching team from those organisations," Rebecca said.
"Now I'm preparing for next year and focusing on the grand and state championships as that's how you qualify for nationals, as well as smaller club competitions too."
The Australian Rowing Championships is the nation's largest rowing regatta and attracts everyone from school participants to Olympian rowers right across the country.
This year the popular event was held at the Lake Barrington International Rowing Course in Tasmania on March 22 to 28.